John Dunstable was an English composer who lived between 1385-1453c. Not very much is known about Dunstable’s life but he left about 60 musical works. Dunstable was known for his flowing musical style and his harmonies, which set his music apart from those compositions of the late medieval period.
Dunstable’s Regina caeli laetare is an antiphon and is in three parts. Dunstable’s most important pieces were his three-part sacred pieces, settings of antiphons, hymns, mass sections, and other liturgical texts (A History of Western Music page 173). Regina caeli laetare uses Dunstable’s new musical technique now called paraphrase. This is were “the melody is giving a rhythm and ornamented by adding notes around those of the chant” (A History of Western Music page 173). Also, no two measures in succession are the same, which is a characteristic of Dunstable’s work.
Comparing this work to Dunstable’s other composition Quam pulchra es there are similarities as well as differences. First, they are both written in 3 parts. But unlike Regina caeli laetare, Quam pulchra es is not based on the existing melody. All three of the voices move together in rhythm. Regina caeli laetare does not do that – the voices move separately and the chant is only elaborated in the top voice.
I randomly came across this piece looking for works by John Dunstable. I found it interesting how many different musical characteristics Dunstable incorporated into his music and in his many compositions. What I enjoyed about this particular piece was the paraphrasing – the new technique Dunstable used were only the melody is given a rhythm. It is interesting to learn about the specific styles and then to actually hear them in a work.
Burkholder, J. Peter, Donald Jay Grout, and Claude V. Palisca. A History of Western Music. Eighth Edition. (W.W. Norton and Company, New York, New York). 2010.
“2010.07.10 Regina Caeli Laetare.” Youtube video. Posted by “aquazzone.” Uploaded April 21, 2011. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ESoFe9Nlzs
“Dunstable: Quam Pulchra Es.” Youtube video. Posted by “Ruey Yen.” Uploaded Feb. 16, 2011. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8FTw9xl5h-Y
“John Dunstable.” Encyclopedia Britannica. Accessed Feb. 4, 2014. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/173864/John-Dunstable
Dunstable, John. Regina Caeli Laetare. Score. IMSLP. Accessed Feb. 4, 2014. http://petrucci.mus.auth.gr/imglnks/usimg/b/ba/IMSLP44170-PMLP94987-Dunstaple_Regina_celi.pdf